"We are committed to
strengthening the capacity of our public health system to meet
health threats," the governor said. "The rollout of this electronic
disease reporting system to private health care providers enhances
the state's ability to quickly identify health problems and direct
the appropriate response."
inclusion of hospitals and other health care providers in the
Illinois-National Electronic Disease Surveillance System began this
month. The system, known as I-NEDSS, was initially launched in March
2004 so the state's 95 local health departments could be efficiently
and securely linked through a Web-based computer connection to the
Illinois Department of Public Health. Future applications will allow
laboratories and others to use the system.
Chicago also is developing an
electronic reporting system with its share of federal bioterrorism
funds for the city's hospitals and health care providers, although
that system is not yet ready to go online. When Chicago's system is
in place, it will be designed to share data with the state's system.
In the past, disease reporting
relied on local agencies, hospitals, doctors and others writing the
information on paper-based data collection forms and mailing them to
the state or local health department or calling with the data. The
process led to reporting errors, double data entry by state and
local health departments, and frequently long delays in the
information reaching the state.
"Effective public health
surveillance is essential for detecting and responding to emerging
public health threats, including infectious diseases and biological
and chemical terrorism," said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public
health director. "Through this state-of-the-art system, we can
gather and analyze data quickly and accurately. This will improve
our ability to identify and track infectious diseases and detect
clinical patterns that might signal an emergency situation, whether
it be naturally occurring or a terrorist attack."
Whitaker explained that in the past
it may have taken days for the state and local health departments to
receive written reports that could alert health officials to a
possible public health threat. But with the electronic system, he
said, health officials will have the information as soon it is
entered into the system by a hospital emergency department or other
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"The immediacy of
getting the data to analyze and determine a diagnosis is crucial to
the public health response to a biological attack, since identifying
the organism used will guide the use of vaccinations, medications
and other interventions," Whitaker said. "The quicker we are able to
identify a biological agent, the more effective public health and
the medical community can be in preventing illnesses or treating
possible victims of an attack or outbreak."
Besides improving the way public
health surveillance is conducted, the new system will allow local
health departments to have immediate access to information they have
submitted, will provide the ability to analyze new and historical
data, and will not require departments to re-enter data sent by
providers. By providing uniform data collection standards and a
secure data entry portal, the system also will eliminate a burden on
medical care staff who have responsibility for disease reporting,
which previously involved a variety of forms.
The new system is part of a national
electronic disease reporting system that not only links health
providers and state and local public health agencies within
Illinois, but also provides data to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Reports can now be received on
gastrointestinal diseases, such as salmonella, shigella and E. coli,
and vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps,
chickenpox and hepatitis. As future applications are brought online,
it will be possible to electronically report tuberculosis and
sexually transmitted diseases -- HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea,
Chlamydia and others. Illnesses can be tracked by the patient's ZIP
code, street, county, symptoms and other factors. The system also
allows adding new diseases and questions at any time so information
can be gathered specific to an outbreak.
The Illinois-National Electronic
Disease Surveillance System is expected to be fully implemented in
about four years at a cost of $10 million and will be able to
collect information on all 77 state-mandated reportable diseases.
The system has been developed under contract with Integrated
Software Specialists of Schaumburg and with the active support and
efforts of an advisory panel of local health departments. Funding
for development and implementation of the system comes from the
state's share of federal bioterrorism funds.
[News release from the